We took a cue from Mr. Rogers and looked for the helpers, and when we did, we found some truly inspiring parents. Theses local moms and dads remind us that simple ideas really can make a big difference in the lives of others. Read on to discover Seattle parents who are making a difference and keep the good vibes rolling!
Vikki Cha, Tara Clark & Xee Yang-Schell
When the pandemic first hit, Tara Clark decided to call three friends each day just to check in on them. It was the call to her friend Vikki Cha that set things in motion for these three Seattle moms. Vikki was concerned about the impact the Pike Street Market’s closing would have on her parents, both farmers who sell their flowers there. So Tara offered to help, imagining she could sell the famed flowers on the sidewalk outside her Capitol Hill home. She spread the word through her social network and within five hours had pre-sold 50 dozen flowers to be picked up the next day. The next day she sold 100 dozen…then 200 dozen… then 250 dozen…and things blossomed from there.
Vikki, Tara and Xee worked non-stop those first few months coordinating with the Hmong farmers, and they saw first hand how excited people were to support the growers. As Tara explains, things came together organically, from the Mercer Island friend who sold over 100 dozen flowers on the island in a day, to a man who volunteered to build the group’s website, to connecting with Matt Galvin, co-owner of Pagliacci Pizza, who helped them set up pick-up spots in Madison Park, West Seattle and on Mercer. In the end, 53 Hmong growers sold with them and the season isn’t over yet.
Extra impact: Tara is also the force behind the Believe Love Unite signs you’ve probably seen (and possibly have) around town that start,“In this house, we believe…” Since she started selling the signs just three short years ago, she’s donated over $75,000 to non-profits like KUOW, The Village of Hope Seattle, Planned Parenthood, International Rescue Committee, It Gets Better Project and more.
Award-winning teacher and father of four, south Seattle dad Donte Felder is the force behind the innovative South End Stories arts program. Funded by a Best Start Kids grant, the program focuses on engaging kids in four-dimensional learning experiences through the arts. Kids in the program make films, write poems and produce plays that are culturally-relevant and meaningful to them. Now going in to its third year, the program started at Orca K-8. It has since expanded to include partnerships with Pathfinder, Center School and Chief Sealth High School, and this summer it included free classes open to everyone. The programming was an invaluable resource for many kids during the pandemic, as they learned the basics of music production, how to create great characters and even got to deconstruct Hamilton, the musical. The team behind South End Stories’ innovative trauma-informed arts practice will offer another iteration this fall when students are engaged in distance learning.
Connect: Learn more about South End Stories, its programs and how to support it here.
When Jane Park, Queen Anne resident and mom to two teens, started Tokki in October of 2019, she had no idea where her next entrepreneurial adventure would take her. Then Covid hit, and in April she got a call from fellow entrepreneur Lisa Sun, CEO of Gravitas, saying her frontline worker friends were in need of fabric masks. Jane and Lisa put two and two together—Lisa’s sewing and design resources, and Jane’s 100% tight weave quilter’s cotton fabrics—and started making masks. Within a few hours, they had hundreds of orders. As Jane explains, they “wanted to do some good in these crazy times,” so the pair decided to donate one mask to a frontline worker in need for every mask purchased as a way to give back. To date, over 14,000 masks have been given away, many to the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance.
Extra impact: Everything about these masks is made is the USA, and the cotton fabrics are eco-friendly. They biodegrade in five months, compared to synthetic fabrics that take 20-200 years. Find out more about Tokki’s commitment to reducing their carbon footprint and being socially responsible.
Connect: Get your Tokki x Gavitas masks online.
The day the statewide school closures were announced, South Park resident and mom to two teens, Lashanna Williams got things together to cook hot breakfast for the kids in her community. As the Covid safety measures evolved, Lashanna realized she needed a way to feed people outside, where they could stay socially distanced. This is how the Neighborhood Pantries came to be. Lashanna and four neighbors—Shawna, Robin, Brad and Tim—got to work. They set out tent-covered tables in four different spots, started taking donations and planned buying trips using Tim’s truck to make deliveries. Each Pantry is stocked with food and other necessities, like soap, menstrual products and masks. For over 200 days the group has kept the tables going using 100% community-donated funds. Lashanna, working with organizations like Food Lifeline and Urban Fresh Food Collective, has also arranged food box pick-ups (about 300 each Friday) and hot meals for kids (about 400 weekly) at the South Park Community Center. Although the Neighborhood Pantries will scale back their offerings at the end of this month, the South Park Community Center efforts will continue.
Erin Ashe & Rob Wiliams
If you and the kids tuned in to the Virtual Marine Biology Camp last spring, you’re probably familiar with Seattle-based whale researchers, Erin Ashe and Rob Williams. When schools closed, they wanted to do something fun and engaging for their six-year-old daughter and her friends, so Rob texted 10 families asking if they wanted to join their virtual marine biology camp. And that's where it all started. When the camp ended in May, over 30,000 kids had tuned in twice weekly on the Elevenses, from at least 10 different countries, to learn with Erin, Rob and their colleagues. The scientist parents loved connecting with curious kids and found their enthusiasm for all things whales and dolphins to be a bright spot in the early days of the pandemic. When the research season started, they had to close up camp, but they have plans to bring it back this fall.
Extra impact: Erin and Rob’s friend and colleague, Karen Sinclair spent hours transcribing episodes and combing through kids' questions to create this downloadable ebook everyone can enjoy.
Connect: Support Erin & Rob’s marine conservation efforts and get caught up on episodes of the Marine Biology Camp online. You can also follow them on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to see where and what they're studying around the Sound. Psst... they'll be at the Ballard Locks until September 14 using a cool underwater sound device to protect the salmon, if you want to stop by.
Parents of the West Seattle BLM Mural
In the heart of West Seattle you’ll find the collective work of this group of parents who are concerned about racial justice and are working for change. From the artists and organizers, to the volunteers, financers and vendors, the West Seattle Black Lives Matter mural is truly a group effort. One of the group’s organizers, Mary, noted that the mural is a way to amplify the voices and value the work of the artists who painted it (they were paid to work on this community project). It’s also, as art often is, an accessible point where anyone concerned about racial justice can reflect, interact and share their thoughts using a QR code. The group hopes the mural continues to be a focal point for racial justice and community building. They plan to keep up with the mural’s maintenance and will host a commemoration next year, with some community activities in between.
It was while on a walk in his West Seattle High Point neighborhood, passing signs congratulating graduating seniors, that Andrew Mead had an idea. He wanted to do something to help launch the neighborhood kids into their next life chapter, and he knew from experience that something as seemingly simple as a $500 scholarship could do just that. So Andrew is organizing a $10,000 fund to be divided into 20, $500 scholarships for High Point’s class of 2020. His scholarship goal is inspired in part by the High Point community vision that strives to “foster the development of a vibrant and caring community in High Point, committed to service, inclusiveness, lifelong learning and well being” and in part by the Martin Luther King, Junior scholarship, offered through the Mount Baker Community Club. Andrew and his wife, both local business owners, are parents to three young kids, and they want the seniors to know the community has their backs. His hope is to make this an annual award, and he plans to hand out this year’s scholarships in early October.
Connect: Make a contribution to the High Point Neighborhood Scholarship Fund online.
Beth Yost, Elisabeth Lepine & Jasmin Thankachen
It was on a trail in upstate New York that Elisabeth Lepine stumbled upon a StoryWalk with her daughter. She was instantly struck by how engaged her kiddo was, running excitedly from sign to sign to see what happened next. When she returned home, she knew she needed to bring this same exciting literary outdoor adventure to her local community. She recruited friends Jasmin Thankachen and Beth Yost, and together these Eastside moms started PopUp StoryWalk. They see the PopUp StoryWalk as a way to bring the community together. From working with local publishers, writers and illustrators, to highlighting local indie bookstores on each book’s end panel, these moms are thoughtful in their approach to making literature accessible and equitable. This fall (and beyond) families can find PopUp StoryWalks at nearby parks and libraries in Seattle and on the Eastside.
Connect: See where the PopUp StoryWalk will be next or make a donation online.
Ming-Ming Tung-Edelman, who calls the Laurelhurst neighborhood home, has always been passionate about fashion and about helping refugee and immigrant women. An immigrant herself, this pharmacist mother of two teens was able to bring her passions together in 2016 when she started the non-profit Refugee Artisan Initiative. The program gives women artisans the chance to use their sewing skills to earn money and support their families, with the end goal of helping them become entrepreneurs. When Covid hit, Ming-Ming knew the RAI could help. She started a Go Fund Me and was able to raise enough money to make 75,000 masks for healthcare providers in the PNW.
The group has also started sewing BLM and Vote masks so people can wear what they believe. Twenty percent of these sales go to support the ACLU. Other innovative mask designs include the window mask, designed with people who are deaf and hard of hearing in mind, and the newly launched Sip ‘n’ Snack mask that will allow people to eat and drink without removing their masks.
For more than seven years, Redmond resident, Dhaarmika Coelho has been actively working to spread kindness in her community. She’s the mom of two daughters and the founder of Camp Kindness Counts, an Eastside non-profit working to “empower kids and families to embrace kindness as a core value to community building.” The program started as a summer camp for 15 kids in 2012, and has grown to include camps, family service days, partnerships with local school districts and more. It also led her to partner with University of California Berkely’s Greater Good Science Center to develop the Kind World Explorers guidebooks. Part of the Families Building Communities of Compassion initiative, these guidebooks bring research-based practices to parents, with a focus on fostering specific character traits like gratitude, generosity, forgiveness, authenticity and flexibility. In the time of Covid, Dhaarmika has continued the kindness summer camps virtually.
Extra impact: Families can download the free kindness curriculum developed by Camp Kindness Counts to enhance distance learning.
Connect: Learn more about Camp Kindness Counts or make a donation here.
When Seattleite Julie Keegan, mom of three, set out to start a leotard company over two years ago, she knew very little about the fashion and manufacturing industry. What she did know was that if she was going to bring a product to market, it would have to follow ethical practices, use organic materials and be sourced locally. Thus Beautiful Uproar was born. Julie’s company makes adorable striped leotards (sizes 2-14), with as little impact on the environment as possible. She’s considered everything about this product, from the California-grown cotton and 100% organic liners, to the eco-friendly packaging that’s fully compostable and recyclable (psst…even the backing on the sticker labels can be recycled). To further reduce the environmental impact, Julie uses a family-owned, Seattle business to manufacture the leotards, and that’s good for our local economy, too. What’s up next for this mom-prenuer? Giving back to the community through charitable donations.
Connect: Get your organic leotard from Beautiful Uproar online.
Like many parents in his Mount Baker neighborhood, Ivan Kerbel, father of two young kids, found himself in a familiar rock vs. hard place situation when schools shut down in spring—how to support kids' social, emotional and educational needs while trying to work. So he sat down and created the Nano School Project, aimed at connecting families based on geography, interests and kids’ ages as a way to solve this overwhelming problem. Since he started, he’s had more than 1,500 families fill out the group’s basic survey. With the help of a couple of UW computer science professors, he’s recently been able to pair families into nano groups of three to five kids. His model relies on things like safety, scheduling and pay for tutors being coordinated and decided hyper-locally. It’s here that groups are also addressing issues of equity, with many groups including one student in need and absorbing the cost. For Ivan this is about setting the right frame of mind around a real problem, understanding that doing something, whatever that may be, and using technology to bridge distances and gaps, is an important legacy we leave for our kids.
Connect: Find The Nano School Project online.